General Business

Mar 11

The Secret Code is….Hidden Promotions

When the word ‘promotion’ comes up in the context of retail stores,  large signs or banners describing a firm’s next big deal comes to mind. “Get some gear! 40% of everything” or ” 2 for 1 on all merchandise” and the list goes on. When you go to the mall or shop online you’re often inundated with different sales and offers. So much so that it sometimes seems like some stores are having sales every day. These kind of promotions are aimed to get the most attention and hopefully drive the most traffic and as a result need to be as obvious as possible. But what if retail promotions were more covert? Instead of being open to everyone  it becomes something that is found or stumbled upon?

At some restaurants you can find a ‘secret menu‘ where there are  items that they don’t advertise but if you’re in the know will make for you anyways. Its a bit like a secret club where customers get something that publicly no body knows about and as a practice is something that ( to my knowledge) hasn’t been really explored in retail as much.

Recently I came across an unadvertised discount from the GAP that spurred my interest in secret promotions. Its  since been taken down from this marginally legit sounding page.  I had come across this link on a Reddit sub forum from someone who had came across it somewhere else. It asked for my cell number and in exchange sent me a discount code to be used at checkout. With some hesitance I tried it out as the site didn’t seem to have much relation to the GAP other than having its logo. Had I not trusted my source for the link I would have passed on it thinking it was a phishing attempt. It did end up working even though not even the employees had much of a clue about it having just come across it once before.

How is a promotion like this useful? Well in my case it gave me a feeling of exclusiveness (mouhaha! I’m one of the few!) and it brought me into a store I don’t often place at the top of my shopping list. With this promotion being so out of the ordinary it encouraged me to research further and with no promotion time span given it placed pressure on me to use this sooner rather than later.

Looking beyond myself as the customer, I estimate the benefits of this approach would be even further expanded when an influencer or content creator comes across this type of content. By seeing this ‘hidden’ content they have the ability to share and build further credibility with their audience. As a result I would presume a two fold result: this person would have a greater affinity for the company (Hey this company had awesome content that I could share with my following. I like them!) and there would be the seeding of this content to this person’s trusting followers who will be more likely to go through with a  purchase.

So…. how is this type of promotion or even campaign implemented?  That’s probably the harder part. Does the firm put up a site and just wait for people to come across it? Should content be seeded through chosen users or be  placed on specific sites? As interesting as this idea is implementing it is the much more difficult part and needs to be explored further. But looking at this just as a concept there may be opportunity in this rather than continually   building larger advertisements to get into the faces of the company’s potential customers.


As always feel free to contact me at either @kevrichard on twitter or


*A note about this post. I’m not in anyway trying to say that lying or being not upfront with your customers can be used as a tactic. Obviously lying  equals angry customers which goes on to decreased sales. I mean to discuss the use of content delivery strategies that are outside of a firm’s owned properties (website, Facebook page, store front).

Dec 09

Don’t Let Your Project Become Vapor Ware!

I recently came across an article from Wired Magazine called Learn to Let Go: How Success Killed Duke Nukem . I was pretty blown away by it. The author told the story of the latest in development version of the video game  Duke Nukem and how despite 12 years of work it will never be released! For someone who casually follows the news in the electronic gaming industry Duke Nukem Forever has been the butt of many jokes, being constantly labeled as vapor ware but still to be 12 years in development with millions spent to not release even a mini game at the end of it all is pretty intense.

C/O Go Gaming Giant

So What Happened? Duke Nukem  a game known for its humor and quality as a First person shooter built a loyal fan base over the years with the latest game at the time being Duke Nukem 3d for the PS1 and N64 (1997). Lead by 3d Realms co-owner George Brousard , the studio aimed to make the best game of the series. Unfortunately with graphics technology constantly changing  Brousard and his team battled with having the most up to date graphics and effects for the game and quickly began pushing back their set release date year after year from their initial one of  of 1998 . After 12 long years and constant graphic engine changes and changes in the game itself this striving for a perfect game ended up killing it in May 2009.

Lessons Learned: Like Digital Realms we all want to deliver great work and are driven perhaps to far for what we perceive as perfection. With no solid launch date Duke Nukem Forever got passed over by many blockbuster games such as Halo, Mass Effect and Gears of War (among many others) who have in the same time span delivered even sequels. Had the developers set a solid deadline , they wouldn’t have had to constantly play catch up to all of these great titles. Instead they could have built a name for themselves.

Rather than  giving yourself a wide open time period to complete your projects, set a solid deadline where regardless of where you are at you’ll decide whether to send it out or move on to the next project. You will always find areas to improve or things that could be different, instead of driving yourself mad with an ideal of ‘perfection’ take your ideas for changes and apply it to your next project.  This way you can not only see the success of one project but you can continue to grow and develop your skills in the next.

Apr 09

MeshU 2009

So I had an insanely busy past few weeks, and this last one was pretty much the end of it. Big highlight was taking in MeshU 2009 at the MaRs Discovery District this past Monday. After attending Refresh Events on March 23rd ( watch out for these events, they fill up insanely fast!)  I won a ticket to attend MeshU (thanks!).  The first convention I attended in 2009 , I walked away with some great learning and experience. Although there were 3 streams (Design,Programing, Management) as a marketer I’m more experienced in the organizational portions of business so I opted to stick with the management stream for the day. Here is a brief run down of all the sessions I attended and a few of the key learning points I gained:Mesh U

1. Finding and Keeping Startup People, Daniel Debow (Rypple) :

For anyone not involved in HR the first knee jerk reaction to this is to zone out, but the key insight from this session  is in a start up EVERYONE needs to be involved in getting great people on board. Looking at my notebook I have a lot of little points written down but the key things are that everyone should be actively seeking great people to bring into the organization ( the idea that great people bring more great people) and that firms should build a company culture where people will want to be ‘friends’ with the company. Through this they may take an active role in seeing how the company is progressing and eventually feel passionate about signing on with them if asked.

As well, getting great people doesn’t happen overnight. The process needs to be as transparent as possible clearly stating the risks of joining the company. In the end both you and the candidate are investing a lot into this relationship and it needs to be developed not smashed together.

2. Selling Agile Development , Dominic Bortulussi (The Working Group):

For someone who isn’t a web developer/programmer I had a bit of difficult time getting my head around this but by applying the topic in a more general business/client sense it became a lot more understandable. To think about a regular client/business relationship you have one side who has a task that needs to be done and specifies a price that they are willing to pay. Then on the other side there is a company who approaches the  client and provides the service for them.Very simple. But thinking deeper its not.

Like all things in life not all projects go out with out experiencing problems or delays.There can also be the case where a client suddenly wants additional specifications added. Very often either the company or the client suffers having to take a loss on the project or not getting everything they wanted.  That’s where the flexible project practice the “Target/Scope Model” comes in:

  • The client sits down with the company to determine a set price and key project needs. Additional optional features are discussed and priced out.
  • As the project continues the client removes and adds scope to the project  depending on how ahead/behind progress the project is.
  • Any scope added/removed from the project is discounted at 50% of the price ( ex: a new feature is added because the project is running ahead of schedule, an optional feature is added for half its price)

There are some criticisms in terms of it being very meeting heavy (between 15%-30% of the project is spent in client/provider meetings) but especially in the consulting field the idea of flexible pricing and  having a project be more realistic to the needs of both the client and producer is a really interesting idea.

For more info check out the powerpoint from the presentation

3.Lessons learned: How I founded, bootstrapped, grew and sold my web startup,Carl Mercier ( Defensio) :

Very often startups feel that they can’t survive without having venture capital funding. Attending this session I learned that you can go it on your own and perhaps be even more likely to walk away profitable. Rather than having an investor who will have first go at your profits you control the revenues and can sell at lower thresholds in comparison.

In part Carl Mercier spoke about having an effective marketing plan (Digg doesn’t work!) and a strong business strategy from the start(neither does an advertising revenue model!). Compared to a funded start up,  a bootstrapped start up needs to be making money fast and  must also do away with all of the niceties they could have had being funded (must have  cheaper offices, used equipment, less flash). Important to all companies but especially to bootstrapped startups is the connection the firm has with their customers especially the early adopters.  These are the people who will be selling your company to their friends,family and everyone else around them. Treat them right!

4.Segmentation, Positioning and Storytelling: How a Smart Market Strategy Can Drive Growth, April Dunford ( Rocket Launch Marketing)

As someone studying marketing I was really excited for this session, and I wasn’t disappointed. While there was a lot of no brainer marketing things (for me anyways) like segmenting your market (you can’t target everyone!)  there were some good points made in terms of selling your company/product:

  • Creating a strong value proposition: Tell up front why your customer should buy your product and what makes you different from your competition ( customers don’t want to think!)
  • Create a personal story of your company to tell to customers, it builds a stronger connection and is more effective than listing off facts. They come in 3 forms: Customer Success ( how has the product/service positively affected a customers business) , Competitive Win ( how did you one up your competitor) and Company creation ( such as how Youtube was supposedly started in someones garage *Wrong*) .
  • Communications is VERY important. For whatever initiative you do be it a website, using social media , all the way down to your corporate culture , companies need to have a clear and targeted message. Don’t make it too formal or generic , every piece of messaging should be targeted towards the customer and leave an impression. Another key to this is to remain consistent, everyone should be on board saying the exact same thing even when it may seem repetitive as this is how your company is being portrayed to the public.

5. Boiling the frog: how to get everyone else as excited about your idea as you are, Jason Oke

( Juniper Park) :

I think this presentation complimented well with April Dunford’s presentation.  This presentation furthered the idea of effectively communicating yourself to clients. Lets face it when faced with change most people try to resist it ( interesting enough I learned from this presentation that the ipod was at first rejected)   but by being passionate and targeted with your presentations you can defeat objections and win over people.

Again the idea of telling a story was presented. People need to be sold on the process as well as the product. Often times we are too modest or self defeating of ourselves , we need to stop this as sometimes we can actually kill good ideas. While a strong business case is always important, demonstrating your passion to others and how this came about is  important as well. Jason Oke presented the idea of going beyond the old powerpoint or boring report for the idea of being  multimodal : present some of the tools or inspirations that your team worked off of, bring in a customer to use and demonstrate this product and tell your customer what they think, or go a completely different route  and give them something like  a book  describing the story of your product. To get your customer on board you need to make them part of the process, allow them to give input and take an active part of your presentation  so they feel a stronger connection with your company and what you’re trying to sell!

Have any Questions/Comments? Contact me at or send me a twitter message.

Feb 09

Why I'm Not Listening to Your Presentation!

This seems like a pretty back to basics post but I find too many people  get this all wrong and loose the very people they are trying to persuade in the process. Creating a great presentation ( powerpoint or otherwise) is something that takes time and a lot of thinking to do right, but can also be easily completely screwed up. While I’m no expert on the subject as I’ve been a guilty party well ,I’ll use a bit of my experience  from my communications background and from having to sit through countless presentations ( and many bad ones!):

Practice! :  There are very few people who can ‘wing it’.You need to put time into knowing your presentation and what you plan to say or else you’re more likely to have many run on points and take way too long! As well practicing can’t be done in your head as it doesn’t account for the speed of your talking  and any Ummm’s and Ahh’s that you’ll have trying to put decent words together. By doing it out loud you can hear how your presentation is going to sound and can change any wording that  doesn’t flow right. 


Personalize: This comes in two parts,  adding a personal aspect/experience  to  your presentation to build credibility ( can’t be done in all cases)  and personalizing it for the audience. What I mean by personalizing it to the audience is if you’re speaking to  for example a  group of Computer programmers you’re not going to tell them the basics of a computer. So basically don’t regurgitate information that you’re audience already knows this is probably the easiest way to have people tune out, even if  you have something relevant to them later on. 

Learning to use less : Another very common mistake I’ve seen is people trying to cram as much information as possible  onto slides. People aren’t there to read from a powerpoint, they’re there to hear you speak . So speak more than what you place on the powerpoint/blackboard etc. This will keep the attention on you and your audience won’t zone out after reading the slides before you’ve gotten to your points. There are so many general rules out there that I won’t go into in terms of how much you should place on  slides , what I can say is to put on only as much that it will compliment what you’re saying  and not dominate the presentation.


Be Creative and Interactive:  Unfortunately we all have very short attention spans and if we’re not engaged we start talking with the person beside us or do anything that doesn’t involve actively listening to you! Again if you’re using powerpoint it needs to be interesting to the eye  and what you say needs to keep the audience listening . Moving beyond just telling the audience information is effective as well. It can be a demonstration, a short skit, a funny little game  just something to break away from just constant speaking. 

 To add more to this,  audiences tend to take away more when they are actively involved. This also can be the hardest thing to do as there will be a lot  resistance. Through asking simple questions, having people do small activities or at least giving them a small laugh , not only will they be more likely to pay attention but they will also remember  the key information that you’re presenting! 



I hope this helps out a bit for the next time you’re doing a presentation in whatever setting that may be. The biggest take away I would like to express is to be audience oriented! Your audience is the whole reason you’re presenting, if you loose them you’ve pretty much failed at your goal.

Have any Questions/Comments? Contact me at or send me a twitter message.

Feb 09

Microsoft, Keep Doing Things Like This!!

            I heard about this project from on the FIR podcast #418 and once I started reading about it I started salivating at the Marketing/Tech oportunities! Called the Microsoft Tag , essentially  it is a barcode maker but a cool one at that. With the increased usage of Smart phones more and more people  are starting to have 2 things with them at all times, a digital camera and an internet browser. With that in mind through the use of these multi coloured barcodes people can upload them to their phone using their digital camera and it is then translated into specific webcontent through the Microsoft plug in.

             If you go to the site  Microsoft gives a few potential uses for this product such as downloading a bus schedule, being forwarded to a movie trailer from a movie poster or getting more information from a real estate sign. I’m sure if shown the benefits of this product this can be used in so many other applications such as directing people to product descriptions at retail stores, linking interactive campaigns and paper advertising ( such as magazine, and street signage)  even something as simple as a museum tour could be done with this technology.

           Overall the biggest function for something like this is that it may be able to give a new form of interaction between consumer and company in a person’s everyday life.  And unlike any obtrusive ad campaign out there this is something that the person opts into  meaning that firms don’t waste their time with people that aren’t interested in the  comodities they provide.  

            Kudo’s to Microsoft for coming out with this, I’m normally not a huge fan of the company (damn you Vista!)  but when they let themselves be a bit more relaxed and creative they can come out with good stuff ( such as the Xbox 360, and the Zune)  now if only they would actually release something like this



Jan 09

I <3 Reddit!

So I’ve been reading Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott ( amazing book!) and have just finished the chapter on “The Net Generation as Consumers”  where in one section he spoke about companies becoming essentially friends with their target consumers.  Reflecting back to companies I’ve dealt with the news aggregator site Reddit  comes to mind. I’m a big fan of this site and have often either forwarded links from this site or shared it with my friends and I do this not only because I enjoy the content on the site but because the site creators have essentially become my friend and have befriended the rest of the website members. Here are some of the simple yet significant ways that they manage to do this:

Interacting with members outside of the site: The creators of this site not only interact with members through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter ( ex: @ kn0thing)  they have offline meetups!  I’ve met with them personally last year during their Drankkit World Tour where they went to major centers and sat down and had drinks with members ( a few pics of me at that event included)  but they even do it randomly including having dinner with a Reddit member who just asked if anyone were interested in going out for dinner.

They personalize: The Reddit alien is a big part of the personality of the website, almost every day  a new drawing of it is posted up depending on current events or project of the site. From time to time as a result of already mentioned meet ups or requests of members the Reddit Alien is redrawn or the Reddit logo even contains relevant pictures. As well the website is in a constant state of change( much like Gmail its in constant Beta)  if there are enough user requests certain aspects of the site are changed.

Not only are they creators, but they are also users: They don’t passively watch the site or attempt to moderate it , they are fully involved members. They aren’t afraid to get in there and post a comment or link and create discussions with other users. They also start side projects that encourage further member collaboration. Sometimes it can be silly such as Mr.Splashypants  but even in more serious matters such as Reddits Feed A Need campaign where users are encouraged to lend their skills and time in helping out a not for profit organization.

Overall I have a major heart on for this site and its creators. As a consumer I have a choice between Digg and Reddit  as they are essentially the same site and many times have the same links but  as Reddit has worked harder to befriend me my loyalty is pretty cemented in place . I’ve included a few pictures from Drankkit Toronto 07 , some with me included. Enjoy!  



Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian

The 2 Reddit Creators , Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian with Jenna Landry from Wired Magazine



My attempt at a "C" for Canada.... it ended up pretty lame!

My attempt at a "C" for Canada.... it ended up pretty lame!

Have any Questions/Comments? Contact me at or send me a twitter message.

Jan 09

Do as I say…. not as I do?

Ok, so I saw this and thought it would be something hilarious to do :

Andy Nulman, I WANT YOUR BOOK  Pow Right Between the Eyes ! :P (Kevin Richard Unit 3  350 Huron St. , Toronto Ontario M5S 2G3) 

I feel really bad for doing this after listening and reading about how there can be a loss of credibility when taking materials from outside corporations/interests on  Six Pixels of Separation  but I’m also an avid reader and as marketing is my area of interest its kind of hard to pass this up. 

So Blog post for a book….not a bad deal.  If its any good I’ll write a follow up post, if not it this will never be mentioned again. I guess I’ll rebuild my legitimacy through puting up a good blog post very soon!

Jan 09

I Throw Like a Girl, So Instead I Joined the League of Kick Ass!

So I’m still working out my schedule and regular routine having jumped into 2009 so I’ve been a bit slow on blogging   (I’m getting there!) . On Monday I attended for the first time a League of Kick Ass Business People event! While there werent any super hero’s present like in the League of Justice or anything else you would picture in a comic book it was still pretty ‘Kick Ass!’. lkbp3

Along with hearing some of the insights from  members of this elite ( or L33T) group, the theme of the night was ‘The Kickass Green Event’ talking about green business, and the Canadian environment. All in all really good speakers:

-Leslie Domenico from Green Enterprise Toronto spoke about sustainable and green business within Toronto ( big focus on local sourcing and equitable business) 

-Linda Mortsch from Environment Canada gave an intense wake up call about the state of global warming and how its going to affect our planet.

-Andy Thomson blew me away twice, first with his amazing presentation skills ( when you can tear 50+ business people from conversation to pay attention to you, thats what I call having  presence!) and after with his presentation on green homes with  the interesting idea of a green trailer park which was less trailer trash and more loft living in a forest. 

I unfortunately had to dash to another meeting I had, but  afterwards there was a presentation from Bikes without Borders which probably rocked as well, they sound like an inovative not for profit organization which I look forward to reading more about, perhaps getting involved sometime in the future(Linkage).

Overall, it was a good night even despite having to cut it short. I’m really exited to  become more involved in the LOKBP ( for more about what they are  check out here! )  this is definitely a group  that while making me feel insignificant because I’m not fully kick ass (yet!)  it also makes me want to learn and expand  myself  and  bring myself to that level.

 If you perhaps are a kick as business person who just happened to stumble upon my blog twitter @SeanMoffitt as not only is he the ‘big kahuna’ of the group , I’m sure he’d be happy to have you aboard.   The next  LOKBP event  Kick ass Design, will be happening March 4th ( so far away!) and  Sean is also begining to get together a group of Under 30 years  KBP group as well!  Pretty exciting stuff.                                          

Thats it for me, back to my chill friday night! Got any  Questions/Comments? Contact me at or send me a twitter message.

Jan 09

Steve Jobs: I’m not dead yet!!

This is a pretty insane case of the CEO being part of a company’s brand. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple has come out in a public letter stating that he is in good health and not dying! Much like earlier this year after a presentation of the Iphone 3G , rumors about his health have been circulating around the net after it was announced that Job’s will not be giving the 2009 keynote at MacWorld.

After this announcement Apple stock took a significant dive falling to $83.35 a share from $100 in mid December. Steve Jobs in his statement attempting to prevent further damage , stated that he was skipping MacWorld this year to focus on a recent hormone imbalance that has been causing him to lose significant weight over the past year and that he is OK staying on as CEO for the forseeable future.

With Job’s prostate cancer announcement in 2004 pundits and investors have taken an increased interest in his health giving rumors like this very quick legs. While Steve Jobs has been instrumental upon his return in bring back Apple co. to great success , he has now in my opinion become a liability to the firm. Being so strongly associated with the brand (among some apple fanatics he’s seen as a savior) investors and customers cannot see a future for this company without its ‘great leader’.

My prediction for the year is either while becoming fed up or slowly forced out of the company Steve Jobs will step down from his position as CEO and take a more consultative role . While he’s done such great things for this company I think this is an example of how a company cannot have a single figure head or public face to the firm because like in the case of Steve Jobs’ if they are unable or unsuitable to represent the firm , the company overall becomes weaker in the eyes of the public.


Image source:

Dec 08

British Bankster's: Not Sorry They F@#*ed Up Your Christmas!

I came across this sad bit of news while surfing the net ( check it out here) .The journalists at the London Sunday Express came across a video on Youtube from a group of British Bankers with a little Christmas carol of their own for the people of the UK to ‘enjoy’. Calling themselves the “City Bankers” they identify themselves as local bankers and  stock brokers with one claiming to have worked for the now defunct Lehman Brothers. 

This video follows the walk of a cartoon child describing the sad change in this years Christmas because of the financial meltdown. After a while of this, a group of obviously drunken bank workers go into chorus stating:

“Sorry we F@#*!ed up your Christmas, but really we don’t give a s#@t! Cause we have made loads of money, in fact we’re swimming in it” 

This video goes on to more creudness including a man urinating, overall not giving a ‘shit’ about  all the people that are suffering as a result of this financial meltdown.  The creators claim that this video came about because they were tired about people bugging and harassing them about this financial meltdown.

Although this isn’t linked to any one firm ,if this story grows legs this can potentially become a reputational problem that could turn into a customer relations firestorm. Any inaction in this case could cause problems for the UK banking industry as it then would be seen that  the opinion of this small group represents the general sentiment of the banks, something at this time  they obviously don’t want happening. Overall  I’m personally pretty disgusted with this video and don’t have much sympathy for these bank employees should they face consequences, I’ve embedded the video below to check out: